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Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Today’s guest picture comes from our friends Mike and Alison.  They are on holiday on the shore of Loch Feochan in Argyll and this is the view from their front window.  They have chosen a good week for their trip.

Loch Feochan

We had a day of perfect weather here too, although there was still some winter chill left in the breeze.  The recent spell of dry weather means that pollen has been very heavy recently and our shiny new car often ends the day covered in a fine film of powder. This doesn’t help my asthma and although it doesn’t leave me gasping in the gutter it may explain why I found myself trying to sing a different hymn from everyone else at one stage during the morning’s church service.  Still, I managed to get home safely after the service and prepared a beef stew for the slow cooker.

Looking out of the kitchen window while I cooked, I watched our siskins monopolising the feeder again.

siskins

…or rather , nearly monopolising it, as the occasional sparrow did sneak in.

sparrow on feeder

I noticed something quite unusual going on beneath the feeder.  A greenfinch was diving in and out of a mini jungle of old daffodil leaves and guddling about furiously.  I don’t know what it was looking for at all.

greenfinch among daffodil leaves

When the stew was on, I had a short walk round the garden.  Pulsatilla Corner was looking quite exciting.

pulsatilla seehead

…and I spent quite a lot of time waiting for a male orange tip butterfly to settle down for long enough to let me take a picture.  It was too restless for me though and I had to make do with a female who did hang around for a few seconds.  Although the females don’t have orange tips to their wings, they are beautifully decorated all the same.

orange tip butterfly female

It was such a pleasant morning that I thought that I would try a little more gentle cycling therapy to stretch my sore ankle and took the slow bike out for a seven mile potter up and down the Wauchope road.

In spite of the efforts of the council to mow down every wild flower in sight, there are some about.

wild flowers up wauchope

And there were any amount of male orange tip butterflies too.  I kept on stopping to try to snap one but they kept on going and once again, I had to make do with more stable female specimens. As they were flying alongside male orange tip butterflies, I naturally assumed that they were females orange tips but when I looked at the shots on the computer, it became plain they they are green-veined white butterflies.

green veined white

This may explain why the male orange tip wasn’t hanging around.

To add insult to injury, a male orange tip actually came right up to my bicycle when I stopped at Wauchope Schoolhouse to take a picture of the locals there…

two bulls at schoolhouse

…and it actually sniffed at my front fork before heading off seconds before I could get my camera to focus on it.  I’ll get one, one of these days.

The trip back to Langholm was very enjoyable with the wind behind and the sun on my back.  I went down to the river before I went home and was happy to see an oyster catcher on the gravel beside the Esk.

oyster catcher by esk

I got back in time to have a plate of soup for lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She has been doing some heavy spring cleaning over the past two days.  Spring has a lot to answer for.

After lunch we had the pleasure of gliding down to Carlisle in the the zingy little white thingy and in the sunshine, life felt very good.

Our choir practice was good fun.  Our conductor is always cheerful and full of zest but the fine weather had topped up her energy levels to “extra high” and she was on sparkling form and drove us onwards and upwards.  Two of our more senior choir members got married this week and in celebration, they came out to the front and the choir serenaded them with the appropriately entitled “O Love”.  They were much touched.  We were moved too.

The journey home was as enjoyable as the trip down.  For some reason, the air, which has tended to be rather hazy in recent weeks, magically cleared up today and the views were every fine.

I had a walk round the garden when we got back and found flowers old and new enjoying the day.

four eveining light flowers

This is the  first allium to make it to a perfect sphere.

allium sphere

When we had finished disposing of some of the stew with parsnips for our evening meal, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to spring cleaning and I went for a three bridges ‘walk’ on my slow bicycle to enjoy the evening light.

It certainly was enjoyable.

from Town Bridge evening light

And because the wind had dropped, it was still quite warm.

reflections in Ewes

I met a bunch of cyclists on the Kilngreen.  They were packing their bikes back into cars after a group outing.  They had just completed a hilly 102 mile ride round St Mary’s Loch.  I felt envious but a bit guilty too because we had done pretty well the same trip with Sandy not long ago but had needed a car to get round.

I pedalled gently on and was submerged in a sea of green

trees in spring

It was balm to the soul and banished any negative thoughts from my mind.

trees on Castleholm

I cycled back along the new path and enjoyed the variety of shapes and colours among the pine and fir trees that I passed.

An elaborate candelabra on a pine…

pine candelabra

…and the incipient cones…

noble fir female

…and packed male flowers on the noble firs.

noble fir male

And the best thing of all about the day was the fact that the gentle cycling seems to have eased off my sore ankle a lot.  It is now only mildly painful and quite supple.  If this remains true tomorrow morning, I will be very happy indeed.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, getting ready to kick a friend off the feeder.

flying siskin in attack mode

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Irving, a keen fisherman.  Knowing that we have not got much water in our rivers at the moment, he sent me this view of the Einag Falls. They are on a tributary of the river Oykel in the Highlands where he was fishing three weeks ago.  He adds that he caught  two fish.

Einag Falls

After some showery days, the weather gods knew that we had a two choir day today so they arranged for a fine day with no rain.  How we laughed.

The flowers in the garden are having a difficult time with the changeable weather so some are starting to come out and then sticking and others are coming out a bit early and then going over more quickly than usual.

tulip and trout lily

The trout lilies are on the way out and I have dead headed tulips which should  only just be by now.

Still, there are plenty of promising buds just waiting for warmer and steadier weather.

clematis bud

And the trees have gone green in a rush.

My feet are still annoying me so after church, I went out for a cycle ride round my short three bridges walk as fortunately cycling is pain free.

Almost every tree beside the river is in leaf now…

river esk from suspension brig late april

…and the Lodge Walks are looking beautiful.

lodge walks late april

The Castleholm is surrounded by varied greens…

trees green castleholm

…and there is even a tinge starting to show on the hills behind.

trees and timoen

Spring is in full fling.

green growth castleholm

As I crossed the Jubilee Bridge, I could just see the Duchess Bridge behind the new foliage.

duchess bridge among leaves

When I got home, I inspected the Charles Ross apple on the fence…

Charles ross apple blossom

..and was very pleased to find a solitary bee hard at work,

bee on apple blossom

The Ballerina tulips are lasting well…

ballerina tulip standing

…and we are still waiting for others to open.

leaning tulip

We combined the trip to our Carlisle Choir with some shopping which included cheese, coffee and dates.  As the choir practice was enjoyable as well as hard working, this made for a good way to spend time even if it was indoors on a fine day.

The forecast is offering us a couple of warmer, dry days to come so we have forgiven the weather gods for their little joke.

I didn’t have much time to watch the birds and for some reason, there weren’t many birds to watch anyway after some very busy days at the feeder.

This didn’t stop a siskin and a goldfinch going beak to beak….

siskin goldfinch eyeball

…but the flying bird of the day turns out to be a small white butterfly instead.

white butterfly

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Today’s guest picture shows one of our son Tony’s dogs enjoying the sunshine on the East Wemyss Riviera.  It’s lip-smackingly good there.

Tony's dog.

Our spell of dry and sunny weather started its drift to normality today as the temperature dropped a degree or two and the sun became rather shy as the day went on, but it was still a remarkably nice day for the time of year.

The morning was made even brighter by the arrival of Sandy for a cup of coffee and when he left, I had a look for new flowers and found that the Limnanthes douglasii, better known as the poached egg plant had come out….

poached egg flower

…though there was not much evidence of the white of the egg in most of the flowers.

Mrs Tootlepedal has two perennial wallflowers and the second one is just flowering…

perennial wallflower new

…and it has so many potential flowers that I have a feeling that it will appear many more times in posts before the end of its season.

The chief event of the morning though was a visit to Mike and Alison Tinker’s garden.

This charming acer brillinatissimum welcomes  visitors to the estate.

acer brilliantissimi

I reported a few days ago that after waiting twelve years, Mike and Alison’s Kowhai plant from New Zealand had produced a flower.  I can now report that it hasn’t stopped producing flowers since…

kowhai

…and it was looking very impressive indeed.

Mike showed Mrs Tootlepedal another of his Antipodean guests.

wollemi pine and gardeners

This is a wollemi pine, a plant so rare that it was thought to be extinct until a few specimens were discovered in a remote valley in Australia in 1994.  In order to preserve the species, the original plants were the subject of a scheme of propagation and material was distributed round the world.  Mike’s daughter, a professional gardener obtained this plant for him and it is now thriving in his garden.

wollemi pine

There were several other interesting plants to see.

There was a snowflake, a bulbous perennial of the Amaryllis family.

snopwflake

And a wine and rose rhododendron.  As it is an early flowerer it had to be carefully protected by Mike and Alison with fleece during the recent frosty nights but the trouble they took was well worthwhile.

wine and rose rhododendron

As well as white trilliums, they have these striking red ones too.

trillium

And as he knows that I like fuchsias, Mike pointed this Fuchsia Thalia to me.  It is certainly unusual but I don’t think it is my favourite Fuchsia.

fuchsia thalia

We may have white and red pulsatillas, but Mike and Alison have purple ones.

pulsatiila

Their garden may not be the biggest in Langholm but it is probably one of the most interesting ones.

We went home and I sieved some compost and then went in to do some business which involved phoning a large insurance company.  We are on a roll just now and after the very satisfactory visit from an engineer yesterday, I got straight through on the phone to a competent and courteous young man and resolved my business satisfactorily in just a few minutes.  What are things coming to?  I won’t have anything to complain about soon.

Then we had lunch.

After lunch, we were visited by the representative of the power company who had come to weigh up the scheme for replacing our old and rickety electricity pole which sits in the vegetable garden.  After some discussion, it was agreed that they would bring in a mini digger to dig the hole for the new pole and that company agreed to make good any damage to the vegetable beds affected.    This meant moving our present strawberry bed so Mrs Tootlepedal gave the strawberries a very good watering and while this soaked in, we went off for a short bicycle ride to view the bluebells which she hadn’t seen so far this year.

I couldn’t help taking a few pictures while we there.

more bluebells 5

They have spilled over from the top of the hill and the whole banking is now going blue.

more bluebells 4

Wall to wall carpeting was to be seen on all sides.

more bluebells 3

Mrs Tootlepedal was thoroughly pleased that she had made the effort to visit.

more bluebells 2

We pedalled home by the long route, going along the Murtholm, across Skippers Bride…

distillery with leaves

…and back to the town along the other bank of the river.  I stopped on the suspension bridge to admire the cherries and remark on how low the river was.

cherries by esk between bridges

And looked downstream too.  The trees are green.Down river esk from suspension bridge

When we got home, we moved the strawberry plants to their new bed and gave them another good watering.  They look healthy enough so we hope that they will not mind the move too much.

I went to our corner shop to buy some eggs and came upon the travelling fishmonger’s van on the way back so I had smoked haddock kedgeree for my tea and Mrs Tootlepedal had hot smoked salmon.

After tea, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our community choir, and it was good to be singing together again after the Easter break.  We have a concert coming up in a month so we worked hard.

The weather had finally broken and it was raining as I walked home.  Fortunately, I had checked the weather forecast before going out and I had a brolly with me.  The rain is welcome  but the drop in temperature is not so welcome.  We may even see the return of the vest.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch creeping up on a redpoll.

flying goldfinch and redpoll

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Today’s guest picture is a second from Bruce’s recent visit to the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.  I make no apologies, I love steam engines.  This one was built in 1896 and is a lot older than me.

Bruce's train

We had yet another lovely day here with more wall to wall sunshine and no call for a jumper or jersey at all.  It is going to be a shock when we get back to normal spring temperatures in a few days time.

Meantime we are enjoying the weather without complaint.

The tulips are enjoying the weather too…

two glorious poppies

..with new ones coming out each day.

red and white poppy

Mrs Tootlepedal has a lot of dicentras spread about the garden and that makes me happy as both the bees and I like them a lot.  I got a rare shot of one without a bee nearby today.

dicentra trio

In general, the garden is looking very cheerful with plenty of colour on all sides.

garden flower panel

I spent a happy morning pottering about, chatting to neighbours over the fence and dead heading daffodils as well as doing a little mowing while Mrs Tootlepedal  planted some onions.

The plum blossoms are pretty well over and the birds are now posing among the leaves.

goldfinch and plum tree leaves

After lunch, I went for a short walk, crossing the Wauchope Water which has been reduced to a trickle by the lack of rain…

wauchope in a trickle

…and enjoying a rhododendron in the park as I climbed the steps…

park rhododendron

…up to the Stubholm track, which was looking leafy.

stucholm track

While this adds to the pleasure of going along the track, it detracts from the views along the way.

leave sblocking view

The purpose of my walk was to take a second look at the bluebells to see if two sunny days had brought them on.

They had.

bluebells glade

There were bluebells on all sides.

bluebell panel

The individual plants are looking very healthy this year…

bluebells 1

…and the combined effect is well worth a walk to see.

bluebells 2

At the bottom of the hill, I saw the first wild garlic of the year…

wild garlic april

…and looking along the Murtholm, I could see that the trees are going green in earnest.

murtholm in April

My feet are still a bit troublesome so I turned and walked back to the park along the Beechy Plains.

beechy plains

Keeping an eye on the river as I went along.

corner of Esk

Two gulls were in position on handy rocks.  They were just too far apart to get them both into one shot

gull on rock in river

When I got home, I had a moment to look at the birds…

redpoll

…but there were not a lot about, possibly because the sparrowhawk paid several unsuccessful visits to the garden during the day.

After a short rest, I got my bike out and stretched my tender tendon by cycling fourteen warm and sunny miles at a gentle pace, stopping only once to record a good show of blackthorn along the Cleuchfoot road.

Cleuchfoot blackthorn

The bicycle is a fine mode of transport because not only does it get you from A to B reasonably quickly and very economically, but it also has magical properties.  You may be a fairly elderly person, with unreliable joints and poor eyesight but when the road is flat and the wind is helpful, even you can whizz along at such a speed and with such freedom and ease that you can easily imagine yourself as Young Lochinvar or one of the three men who brought the good news to Aix from Ghent and feel quite young again.

Of course any little hill or change in the wind direction can knock that fantasy on its head in a moment but there is nothing like it while it lasts.

And Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a delicious tea to round off a good day.

While we were taking a late turn round the garden, we were visited by an old friend who has returned from America after many years away.  He is a good flute player and I hope that when he has time, he will give me some tips to pass on to Luke.  (We didn’t have a lesson today as it was both a holiday and too good a day to waste time indoors.)

The flying bird of the day is a siskin getting ready for a landing on the feeder.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who is back from Wales.  She found herself looking across the Thames and reflecting on how enormous the new buildings in London are when compared to the Tower of London which can be seen cowering on the extreme right of her shot.

London skyline

We had another dry day today and it is now so long since it has rained that Mrs Tootlepedal was heard to say (very quietly), “We need a bit of rain.”  She is right as things are starting to dry out too much.  But at least it was slightly warmer today with less bite in the wind and things are forecast to get warmer still over the next few days.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a very busy morning and afternoon with things to do, including getting her hair cut  and then helping out at the Buccleuch Centre Coffee Shop, followed by doing the front of house duties at a screening of a film about the current big Rembrandt exhibition.

I, in contrast, had a very quiet day involving a crossword, coffee, biscuits and bird watching and two very short spells on the bike to nowhere in the garage.

The birds at first were very excitable…

all action goldfinches

…but getting out a different lens slowed them down a lot until they….

still life goldfinch and chaffinch and siskin

…almost looked as though they were frozen in time.

still life goldfinch and chaffinch

We had another siskin at the feeder today.

sisikin april

In an effort to improve my brain power I had a sardine sandwich for lunch on the grounds that P G Wodehouse always claimed that Jeeves, who was a clever fellow, ate a lot of fish.

Then I went for a gentle walk.

I decided that it was time to go up a hill so I walked up the Kirk Wynd from the middle of the town and took note of some colour on the way.

There was a fancy garden escape just at the entrance to the golf course…

colour on Kirk Wynd april

And a native berry a bit further up but how such a fancy daffodil found its way all by itself even further up the track and far away from a garden is a mystery.

The noise of creaking and groaning as I got to the top of the golf course alerted me to the fact that elderly golfers were playing nearby.

Jim and George were basking in the glory of having won prizes in the winter competition which has just ended.

two old golfers

I went through the gate at the top of the track and walked on to the open hill.  It was rather misty so there was not much in the way of views but there was sea of gorse…

sea of gorse whita well

…and trees…

two trees above hillhead

…. silhouetted against the misty hills.

conifer above hillhead

These three trees are remarkable in that a closer look will show…

three trees whitshiels track

…just how slimly attached to reality they are.

wholly holey tree

I had crossed the Newcastleton road and I made my way back down into the valley by way of these sheep pens.

 

bw sheep pens

I walked back to the Sawmill Brig where I saw a dipper again.  It flitted away before  could catch it so I walked on round the bottom of the Castleholm on the new path.

There was plenty of variety in the conifers beside the track.

conifers blooming

And plenty of signs of life on all sides.

spring growth

I enjoyed the sight of this tree plainly stretching its back beside the river.

stretching tree

I know just how it feels.

I waited for a while on the Jubilee Bridge to see if a nuthatch might be using the nest site in the big tree there.  In the end, I was disappointed to see a blue tit popping in instead.

blue tit at nest

I met Mike Tinker and Mrs Tootlepedal when I was nearly home.  They were admiring Mike’s handsome new fence.  I walked home with Mrs Tootlepedal and we enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea and a biscuit or two.

Because I was going out in the evening, I put my pictures onto the computer straight away and then made a shepherd’s pie for tea.

While it was cooking, I walked round the garden and took a final picture.

yellow and orange tulip

After tea, I picked up my friend Susan and we went off to play recorders with our group in Carlisle.  I had missed last month’s meeting because of a clash of dates so it seemed a long time since I had last played.  As a result, the music was even more welcome than usual and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time puffing away on the bass recorder while Jenny, Sue and Susan played the more elaborate upper parts.  We had a good selection of music and some excellent biscuits to go with the after-playing cup of tea so the evening could hardly have been better.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch in full aerodynamic mode, heading into the wind.

determined flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from camera club member Simon.  He suggested the theme for tonight’s meeting and then found that he couldn’t come.  He sent me this contribution  in lieu.  Prizes (token) for telling me where he was.

IMG_0007

Yet another grey and windy day welcomed us when we woke.  Everybody I met had the same thought in mind, “Why does it feel so cold when the thermometer says it should feel fairly warm?”  A brisk and mysteriously chilly south wind, which should be bringing up warm air, was the culprit.

After breakfast, there was a brief sunny interlude. I had to go and collect a key for the camera club meeting and was pleased to spot oyster catchers beside the river on my way back.

P1160973

We have got quite a number now, circling above the town with their strident calls.  Those who live along the banks of the rivers have mixed feelings about the oyster catchers as the birds often fly around in the middle of the night, waking the residents up with their piercing shrieks.  It is a high price to pay for the coming of spring.

Talking of spring, I saw the first blossoms appearing on the riverside trees…

P1160974

…and the daffodils are starting to come out in earnest in the garden.

P1160975

I fixed up an appointment with my physiotherapist for the afternoon and settled down to do the crossword, have coffee, practise a song or two and watch the birds.

A plump greenfinch turned up…

seated goldfinch and plump greenfinch

…and looked to be rather aggrieved at the seeds on offer.

plump greenfinch

Several siskins also arrived and hung about on top of the feeder…

siskins on top of feeder

…while below, a greenfinch threatened a goldfinch’s peace of mind.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The siskins soon got down and dirty and joined in the fun.

siskin and chaffinch at feeder

I thought that I ought to test my foot so that I could givea good explanation of where it was hurting to the physio so I went for a short stroll.

My foot was sore but usable so I pottered round Gaskell’s Walk.  It was getting greyer all the time and the views weren’t very exciting….

dull whita scene

…so I kept my head down and looked for a variety of mosses.  They weren’t hard to find.

Top left and right were growing on walls, bottom left on the ground and bottom right on a tree stump.

four gaskell mosses

I couldn’t pass the lichens by without a nod in their direction.

Top left and right on a fence post, bottom left on an old tree stump and bottom right on a wall.

four gaskells lichens

As I got to the end of my walk, the white duck flew past and settled in the Wauchope.  He had a conventionally coloured lady friend with him but they flew off before I could take the pair of them together.

white duck in wauchope

The theme for the camera club meeting was street scenes so George kindly posed for me with the dog who was talking him for a walk to the park.

George with dog

It wasn’t long after I got home that it started raining but it didn’t come to much so when I had to drive to Powfoot to see the physio after lunch, driving was no great trial and the rain had stopped by the time that I got to the sea shore.  I did see a few birds with my binoculars but they were too far off to photograph.

powfoot seascape

The physio listened to my report, shook her head in a rather thoughtful way and decided that some traction might be a good idea.  I have suffered from a niggling back for many years so a little traction usually does me some good and I was happy to get stretched out on her infernal machine.  It certainly made my back feel a lot better and only time will tell if it has had a beneficial effect on my foot but I feel a visit to the doctor coming on if things don’t improve.

I hadn’t been home long before Mrs Tootlepedal called out that there were big birds in the garden.  She was right.

Two partridges were pecking about under the feeder.  The partridge shooting season is over now so these birds can feed without running into danger.  This one looked as though it might have difficulty getting off the ground.

partridge in garden

While I was away, Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy with her paint brush.

horse with paunted ears

Dappling is the next thing on the rocking horse restoration menu.  This is a nervous business and Mrs Tootlepedal is giving it a lot of thought.

My flute pupil Luke came.  He is still recovering from a bad cold so we took things easily after missing a couple of weeks.  It was good to be back playing duets again.

After tea, I went off to the camera club where we had an excellent selection of pictures once again.  Most of the other members had taken the theme a lot more seriously than me and as they are a well travelled lot we had street scenes from Majorca, Tenerife, Madagascar, Cuba, Edinburgh, India, Thailand and more.  In addition we had some beautiful pictures of local scenes in the recent snow so we were very well entertained.

And there were biscuits.

Mrs Tootlepedal made some home made ginger biscuits during the day so any chance of losing a little of my additional winter weight has gone out of the window for the time being.  They are delicious.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its eye on a perch.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal and shows two fragments of the steampunk embroidery that she enjoyed so much yesterday.  The artist is Jan Johnson.

steampunk embroidery

We had the first genuinely warm and sunny day of the year and it was ideal for gardening and cycling so it was unfortunate that it coincided with our Sunday day of two choirs with no time for anything else but singing.

It was very welcome all the same and gave a really good lift to our spirits.

In between the church choir and the Carlisle community choir, there was time to look out of the window and walk round the garden.

Once again the garden was full of siskins….

siskins

…but among the familiar sights and sounds, the first redpoll of spring appeared as well.

redpoll

Out in the garden among the crocuses…

crocuscrocus

…fresh buds are a pointer of things to come.

spring buds

….and today we had many added bees…

bee on crocus

bee on crocus

…and the frogs in the pond were purring away.

frogs and spawn

They had been busy.

frog and spawn

Some were all for togetherness…

frogs

…while others preferred to hide their light under a bushel.

frog

We had to work hard in both choirs as two of the hymns in the morning had no less than seven verses and it was the last practice before a competition for our Carlisle choir in the afternoon.

The forecast says that we should keep clear of frost for the next few days so I am hoping to get out and about on the bike but it will have to be on my slow bike as the fairly speedy bike is going in for its annual service tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is one of the frequently flying siskins.

siskin

 

 

 

 

 

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